Fly-fishing documentary dips deep, below the surface of friendship

‘Low and Clear' tells the story of reunited buddies fishing the rivers of British Columbia.
BY DENNIS KING Modified: December 31, 2012 at 3:45 pm •  Published: January 1, 2013
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On its lovely, rugged surface, the dramatic documentary “Low & Clear” seems like a roustabout buddy movie with fly fishing at its center. But in the tradition of the greatest of all fly-fishing movies, “A River Runs Through It,” this documentary is beneath its surface about so much more.

Like all good sports stories, it pays masculine homage to the rough ritual of play that so often exposes with compelling urgency those strengths and failings that make us fully human. And like all fine literature it carries the weight of myth rooted in everyday things — like friendship, rivalry and a shared journey.

The movie tells the tale of two lifelong but estranged buddies — J.T. Van Zandt and Alex “Xenie” Hall — as they reunite for a trip to the roiling rivers of British Columbia to catch fish and rekindle their friendship.

Two more unlikely fishing partners would be hard to imagine. Van Zandt (musician, boat builder and eldest son of the late Texas music legend Townes Van Zandt) is the prototypical Zen angler — more attuned to the peaceful pace of nature, the soothing rhythms of the cast, the organic luring of his prey, than to the carnivorous taking of fish. “Xenie” Hall (itinerant firewood salesman) is the very model of the gonzo wild man — lustfully counting his catch, restless and impatient with quietude, always dashing off to pursue bigger and bigger fish.